Since Rick Sund's contract is ending this year and Larry Drew's contract entering an option year next season, I thought it would be a good time to look at a couple candidates for Atlanta Hawks. I want to go ahead and give my prediction that the actual acquisition of a new head coach next season seems unlikely. I'm going to assume that we are going to head into the 2012-2013 season with essentially the same head coach. With our major pieces like Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia facing free agency after next season, withstanding an extension, I think we'll give it one more year till we change coaches, or GM... or owners.
BUT unlikely doesn't mean impossible. And since I'm a glutton for getting my hopes up and then seeing them come crashing down to reality I want to include you guys on that wonderful, excitingly painful, soul crushing ride.
Jeff Van Gundy, Former Head Coach of Houston Rockets and New York Knicks
Acquisition Meter : Very Hard
Which Teams Considered Candidate: Declined Interview for '11 Golden State & '10 Texas A&M
Jeff Van Gundy is going to be a hot commodity when it comes to a coaching vacancy. Van Gundy is a defensive coach serving as an assistant to Pat Riley in the 90’s when the Knicks were one of the best defensive teams around. He's going to command respect form the players, first and foremost, and he has the tutelage of dealing with big name and big ego superstars around the league. I truly believe he will instill the same tenacity and effectiveness that Tom Thibodeau did when he came to the Bulls. The Hawks will also benefit from the ESPN/TNT connection. Being berated on national television is something the Hawks have become accustomed too but with him leading the charge that would surely come to a halt. The Hawks need Van Gundy more than Van Gundy needs us and that's a conflicting position to be in.
With that being said, Van Gundy seems content with his TV role for now. The winning culture of our club along with the pieces we have makes it more enticing than other bottom dweller teams. Still for him to come to Atlanta it would take a lot of convincing, money, trust, and power to make it appealing for him. That's something I don't know the ownership is capable of especially with a possible vacancy in New York at seasons end.
Mike Krzyzewski, Head Coach of Duke Blue Devils
Acquisition Meter: Extremely Hard (Haha! Who Am I Kidding? Not Happening At All)
Which Teams Considered Candidate: '90 Celtics, '94 Trailblazers, '04 Lakers, '10 Nets
I included Coach K just as a memo to people looking down this pipe dream. It's not happening. Not here. Not anywhere. He would surely instill the same values that made his Duke Blue Devils into one the best team in the nation. He would be a damn good coach too. Coaching the Olympic team you could see the type of respect the guy command. He doesn't have anything to prove. He declined a $12M+ per year deal with the Nets. He declined the Lakers TWICE. I think he's content with retiring as the winning coach in NCAA history especially with this quote, "Your heart has to be in whatever you lead. It became apparent that this decision was somewhat easier to make because you have to follow your heart and lead with it and Duke has always taken up my whole heart."
Phil Jackson, Former Head Coach of Los Angeles Lakers
Acquisition Meter: Extremely Hard (Only If Our Team Name Changed To New York Knicks)
Again with the pipe dream. I actually think our team would adapt well to the triangle offense system he would implement with Horford on the block, Smith or preferably Johnson on the wing, and Teague in the corner. It COULD work. The problem I see is, realistically, it's going take time for players to grasp the complex sets. Jackson himself said that there could be 35 different options that can be used when the ball is reversed to the top of the key. The Triangle relies on its practitioners' ability to read an opposing defense in real time, so it's only as simple as the dumbest player on the floor. It takes an intelligent player to read the defense and I know it would absolutely thrive in New York.
Jerry Sloan, Former Head Coach of Utah Jazz
Acquisition Meter: Difficult But Definitely Possible
Which Teams Considered Candidate: Declined Interview with '11 Golden State Warriors
Lets just look at his credentials. In 23 seasons for the Utah Jazz he finished below .500 just once and failed to reach the postseason only three times. Wow. That's what you call credibility. One thing that Jerry Sloan teams were known for and something that the Atlanta Hawks lack is intensity and toughness. Deron Williams never adapted to that mentality saying "By far, the strictest coach I've ever had. I don't think I'll ever get used to it. But it is what it is. What can you do? He's the boss man." He want players with a work-hard attitude and expects players to be responsible and act like men. I could see our Ivan Johnson, Al Horford, and Zaza Pachulia thriving in that type of system. He'll butt heads with a couple players on our team, cougharghhh Josh Smith cougharghh, but I think it's a mentality that this team needs. His intensive use of the pick and roll, a very disciplined offense focusing on spacing, great ball movement, and use of a point guard strengths fit our team very well.
Nate McMillan, Former Head Coach of Portland Trailblazers
Acquisition Meter: Possibly Possible
If there was a coach that did more with less then it sure had to be Nate McMillan. After a possibly career ending injury to your 1st Overall Pick franchise changing center, an early retirement to your All-Star shooting guard, and year after year dealing with a meddling back court it's surprising that McMillan was let go. He still seemed to persevere through the odds and his teams were competitive in a tough division. The similarities between the Blazers and the Hawks have been made before in terms of playing style and both are in need of a fresh outlook.
Mike Budenholzer, Assistant Head Coach of San Antonio Spurs
Acquisition Meter: Possible
Which Teams Considered Candidate: '11 Golden State Warriors
Haven't heard his name? Me either, but his name is being brought up in possible coaching vacancies. He is one of those lifetime assistants we are very familiar with. Budenholzer was San Antonio video coordinator for 13 years and the last 5 years as Popovich's top assistant. Starting off as a video coordinator? Very familiar to Erik Spoelstra. Two decades under Popovich's wing will give you undeniable great learning experience, but I'm kind of hesitant to hire assistants to high profiled coaches. It's really hit and miss and for every Tom Thibodeau you'll get a Kurt Rambis. I still think he can come in to a competitive playoff team and make a difference.
Shaka Smart, Head Coach of Virginia Commonwealth University Rams
Acquisition Meter: Unlikely To Make The NBA Jump (But My Darkhorse Favorite)
Which Teams Considered Candidate: '11 Missouri Tigers, '11 N.C. State Wolfpack, '12 Illinois Fighting Illini
As a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket I was always Shaka Smart to lead my team to NCAA glory like the early Paul Hewitt days... but then we hired Brian Gregory, a good choice but could've been better. Now that it's my dream world I'm going to go ahead and say that Shaka Smart would make one hell of an NBA coach. His defensive philosophy, called the "Havoc Defense" is a defensive mindset that implements a heavy use of the full court press and pressing after made baskets to disrupt opponents' timing of offensive sets. But you're saying, "Sure that'll work in college, especially playing in a weak division and weaker opponents," but NBA players can implement that same mentality. He's making the NCAA Tournament with 2 and 3 star recruits! Offensively they play uptempo and push the ball after misses and the freedom to make plays in the open court. Smart relishes in the dribble drive and kick something that Teague would appreciate too. Coaches that jump from NCAA Basketball to NBA generally don't make a good impression. What nature of college basketball and professional basketball is different, but the "X"-factor that Smart possess is passion and that is something you haven't seen from our coaches for some time. He won't sign for a Larry Drew Contract but it would be an attractive offer to him.
Patrick Ewing, Assistant Coach of Orland Magic
Acquisition Meter: Possible But Unlikely
Which Teams Considered Candidate: '11 Detriot Pistons
Here's another one of those assistant's that we love so much, albeit a little more high profiled than others. Wherever Ewing has gone he has developed young centers into All-Star Caliber players. That has become sort of his niche in his assistant coaching career. Those who watch these things closely know that Ewing’s tutoring is a big reason Yao Ming was the dominant force he was when healthy, and that Dwight Howard’s development can be traced directly to Ewing as well. They also know that Ewing was interested in the head-coaching jobs in Washington and New York that respectively, Flip Saunders and Mike D’Antoni got. He never got a call for either. In the last nine years, he’s built this resume: a year with the Wizards right after retirement, in 2002-03 (where Doug Collins coached and Jordan was president and in the last year of his comeback as a player); four years with Houston under his former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, from 2003-07; and the last four years with Orlando under Stan Van Gundy. I could see him develop a game style that suits Al Horford and complements him more than the guard heavy system we see today. However, I only see this as a potential signing if the ownership is ready to build. I don't see Ewing coming to a team that has playoff ready ability and making an impact.
Bill Laimbeer, Assistant Coach of Minnesota Timberwolves
Acquistion Meter: Possible But Unlikely
Which Teams Considered Candidate: '05 Detriot Pistons, '05 New York Knicks, '11 Detriot Pistons,
He is much of the same ilk as Patrick Ewing in terms of a talented coach who excelled at training centers and power forwards. Laimbeer made his coaching career in the WNBA where he was outstanding, coaching the Detriot Shock to 3 WNBA Championship Titles. He then resigned in 2009 after 7 years in the WNBA and began his journey to become an NBA coach now as an assistant for the Minnesota Timberwolves. There have been more successful coaches with less experience than Laimbeer so I don't put all my reservations with experience. Laimbeer is NBA coaching material, and has the balls to motivate a team the right way. Remember him from his playing days? He was the asshole, the fighter, the flopper, the attitude, the in-your-face bad boy that personified nastiness in the NBA. I'll go ahead and say it, but I, unequivocally, attribute a large portion of Kevin Love's success to the teaching of Bill Laimbeer and obtaining that shooter's touch you see this season. Just think about what he could do for Al Horford's development! He might be more interested going to a rebuilding team, but I can see him working out for this team especially in the future.
Flip Saunders: I'm thinking it would be more like the Detriot days. He DID advance them to the Conference Finals, and I think we have a little more talent and just as much cohesiveness to do as much.
Mike D'Antoni: Just think of Josh Smith in that system... Now think about how much jump shots they take in that system... Oh Dear God! He's like a devil to us!
Mike Dunleavy: It's been a while, but when you have the ability to take the Clippers, pre- Blake Griffin, to the playoffs well then you're doing something good.
Brian Shaw: Taught under the wise Phil Jackson and now he's an assistant coach for a pretty damn good Indiana Pacers team this season. It's more than just a coincidence why they are so much better this season.